The pandemic understandably touched all industries, including those within photonics. However, considering its role as an enabling technology fueling innovation across a truly horizonal market, the outlook remains bright. Read on as CSO Stephane Bussa and CTO Markus Czanta with global designer and manufacturer of world-class precision motion and automation subsystems PI (Physik Instrumente) share their insights.
Laser Focus World: Where are the photonics markets heading in 2023?
Stephane Bussa: We see excellent prospects for sustainable growth in photonics. One important aspect will be the further industrialization of production and quality assurance of photonics components. There are many customers developing innovative concepts in this respect, which we can support with innovative automation solutions, especially with the aim to speed up processes and reduce cycle times.
LFW: Has the pandemic impacted your business?
Bussa: Well—the pandemic has indeed hurt our business—but the pandemic has also been a driver for our business. Our market shares in Medical Technologies and Life Science increased in response to the demands of the Covid situation. We are pleased that our technologies served such an important need for the world at large. The most critical topic has been the disruption of the supply chain. That is something we still have to deal with. On the other hand, digitalization was spurred by the pandemic, and helped to drive the need for more automation, production, and quality assurance equipment in photonics- and semiconductor-related markets.
LFW: Many tech companies are downsizing. What about PI?
Bussa: PI has launched the largest global investment program in the company's history in 2021. We are investing in new production lines around the world and have been hiring specialists massively in Germany, the U.S., and Asia to expand our capacity.
LFW: How is PI driving innovation in the photonics industry?
Markus Czanta: We have reorganized R&D at PI, combining the agility of a mid-sized company with the resources and process stability of a global player. Based on this new structural setup, we can now focus even better on the needs of the different markets we are serving. In the field of photonics, the mass production and quality assurance processes of PICs requires continuously improved solutions to support the industry. Reduced cycle times, ever-increasing demand on throughput, and miniaturization of components are key requirements of our customers—and with our vast experience in nanometer precision motion and automation technologies, we help them push boundaries.
LFW: What kind of innovations do you have in the pipeline?
Czanta: We are working on new solutions that add value for our customers in terms of precision, speed, and throughput. We are developing new magnetic drive technologies such as Magnetic Levitation as well as novel air bearing motion systems and 6DOF hexapods. A new generation of piezo drives is also in the making. Then, we are working on taking modularization and standardization of controls and components to the next level.
LFW: What about the development of production in the U.S.? Will PI supply regionally manufactured components and systems to U.S. customers?
Bussa: We are currently investing in a new site in Marlborough, MA, where we plan to move two of our current facilities during the course of the year. By the end of 2023, PI USA will have four times the production floor space available compared to 2022.